Comics : The Pulse #8

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This story is part of an Arc: "Secret War"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

Last time, Jessica Jones, exhausted and pregnant, passed out on the stoop of Misty Knight's apartment as she continued her search for Luke Cage. Agents of Hydra approached her unconscious body. Now it looks like the story may start to progress a little bit though we still don't know what the hell's going on.

In Detail...

The Pulse #8
May 2005 : SM Spin-Off
Arc: Part 3 of "Secret War"
Editor:  Andy Schmidt
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:  Michael Lark
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Review

The first two pages, just to annoy us I suspect, show us that explosion at Luke and Jessica's apartment that we've seen "who know how many" times. Then Jessica wakes up on a bedroll in an airplane hanger with a well-dressed woman holding a vigil over her. The woman identifies herself as Special Agent Cohen, an empath who seeks to calm Jessica but she isn't an agent of the F.B.I., C.I.A., or S.H.I.E.L.D. She is an agent of the terrorist group known as Hydra.

At the Daily Bugle, Ben Urich tries to track Jessica down without success. (There are two photos of Spider-Man pinned up in the offices, which constitutes your web-slinger fix for this issue.) He gets a call from Agent Al MacKenzie of S.H.I.E.L.D. who encourages him to blow the lid off of Nick Fury's unauthorized activities that resulted in the super-villain retaliation at the hospital but Ben doesn't have enough info to know what MacKenzie is talking about. (This conversation is presented in script form in two columns along the sides of two pages.)

Back at the hanger, Hydra agents talk very reasonably to Jessica, telling her that Nick Fury brought about a Secret War that involved Luke Cage, that Fury is betraying Luke now, and that S.H.I.E.L.D. is behind Luke's abduction and possible execution.

At the Bugle, Ben takes his conversation with MacKenzie to Jonah Jameson. Jonah remarks that Jessica was previously "whining" about the to-do at the hospital and Ben tells him that Jessica is now missing. Jonah tells him to start making inquiries.

At the hanger, Hydra continues to persuasively argue their side, trying to get Jessica to join them. They even pass a package to her which if filled with one hundred dollar bills. Jessica takes the package but turns down the offer in an amusing and colorful way. As soon as she does so, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents crash in and gun down the Hydra agents. Leading the team is Jessica's old boyfriend Clay Quartermain who admits that S.H.I.E.L.D. was waiting outside until money was exchanged and Jessica made a decision on the offer. Jessica tries to keep the money but Clay confiscates it. When Jessica asks him for details on the Secret War, Clay refuses to divulge anything. "Sorry" he says, "You know the rules."

In General...

Well, this is a step in the right direction with a little bit of movement in the story. We have Hydra entering the picture, one apparent faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. reporting to the Daily Bugle and another saving Jessica, and Ben Urich on the job. Bendis' dialogue is again, as usual, excellent. The conversation between Urich and MacKenzie flows wonderfully. (Written in script form, it is another indication that Brian is just going to have to let himself go and write a play, already!) The scene in which Ben confers with Jonah is also a gem of expressive speeches, concise comments and pacing. But the real star of this issue is the speech given by the Hydra leader to Jessica. It is the first time this comic-book terrorist group has been allowed to speak in a sophisticated, persuasive way and it all sounds so reasonable that it almost becomes frightening. This is the way evil organizations persuade in the real world, I suspect. Let's face it, who would ever really join a group like the original Hydra knowing that you'd just be pushed around and executed if you made a mistake? This one makes much more sense and is much more chilling because of it. Jessica's reaction to the offer (which I don't want to give away) is again nicely paced... and priceless.

The artwork is first-rate. It takes a lot of talking heads and sitting bodies and makes them exciting. Go through the comic without reading the dialogue and see how much Michael Lark has to manipulate angle, perspective, posture, subtle body movements, and facial expressions to keep things active and interesting. And Mike Mayhew's cover is eye-catching with a huddled Jessica, a crushed soda can, blowing leaves, and her elongated shadow overwhelmed by nothing but white.

But still, how far have we really gotten here? We still don't know what the Secret War is. (We barely know in the Secret War Mini-Series.) We don't know where Luke is. We don't know what Fury's done. We don't know what Ben is going to find out. Bendis' talents for pacing and dialogue do a good job of concealing this weakness but a weakness it is nevertheless.

Overall Rating...

Much better than the last two but still, for all its strengths, no better than Three Webs.